Jupiter and Saturn Will Align to Create the First “Christmas Star” in Nearly 800 Years.
As crazy as this year has been, we are going to witness a Christmas miracle. Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planets in our solar system, will be so close together in the night sky that they will create a radiant point of light. The last time this occurred was centuries ago, just before dawn on March 4, 1226. (It’s amazing to me that astronomers can actually calculate this.)
Both Jupiter and Saturn have been traveling across the sky together all year. During the first three weeks of December, the planets continue to move closer after each sunset, per NASA officials.
On December 21st, which is the winter solstice, the planets will appear just a tenth of a degree apart, which is equivalent to the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length, according to NASA. Despite appearing close together from the view on Earth, NASA says Jupiter and Saturn will still be hundreds of millions of miles apart in space. The spectacular Christmas Star sighting will be viewable from anywhere on earth.
Conjunction happens every 20 years this century; however, NASA officials said this event is “the greatest conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn” and won’t happen again until the year 2080. In astronomical terms, a conjunction is when two objects line up in the sky.
The planets will appear from dusk to about an hour after sunset low in the western sky. You will be able to see them every evening that week, but they’ll be the closest on December 21st.
Astronomers speculate that the Star of Bethlehem, written about in the book of Matthew, was an exceptionally rare triple conjunction between Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus. One such astronomer was Johannes Kepler, one of the greatest astronomers of all time. It was the original Christmas Star.